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Thursday 9 May 2019 9:10pm

The bays where the public will be treated in the new Clinical Services Building – these bays fill Level 2 and 3 of the building.

Using electronic patient records in the new national centre for dentistry building at the University of Otago will streamline patients' treatment, students' learning and collaboration on patient care, Faculty of Dentistry Organisational Delivery Project Manager Dr Peter Cathro says.

Currently, only patients' names, contact details and financial records are kept electronically, everything else is in paper files taken from one place to another as patients are assessed and treated – during about 76,000 treatments annually for the public.

In the new building, there will come a time when no-one will have to track down paper files anymore because use of the electronic patient management system Titanium is being broadened to cover more tasks so all new files will be completely electronic, he says.

Easy history

Every time a patient is assessed or treated, students and supervisors will simply call up the patient's electronic record and then be able to show them on a screen on the new dental chairs their scans, digital radiographs and intra-oral photos.

Students will also immediately enter details of the treatment they are providing.

Currently, administration staff use details in the paper files to monitor waiting lists but soon academic staff will easily compare electronic records to add patients to waiting lists and adjust the list as needed.


Collaboration over patients' care among the various dentistry disciplines in the new building will be much easier, because they can all instantly see what assessments, prevention measures, restoration and rehabilitation work other disciplines have done or are planning, Dr Cathro says.

The disciplines can also view the patient's file simultaneously rather than waiting for a paper file to arrive, and can discuss the patient from different locations while looking at the same electronic file.

As in any health environment, staff and students will be allowed access to relevant patients' files only and have to sign a confidentiality agreement.


Academic staff will have an easy electronic way to monitor the types of patients each student has been treating as well, then to select the appropriate patients to fill any gaps in each student's learning.

Currently, students have requested the types of patients they would like from administration staff, however the patient management system will allow greater academic over-sight, Dr Cathro says.

Using the upgraded Titanium system also prepares student for the workplace because most District Health Boards around New Zealand use Titanium – the software is one of the most commonly used in the health sector in Australasia. Many private practices also use a similar version of Titanium software.


Having an electronic system will help solve one of the most common complaints patients make to the Faculty of Dentistry as well, that they did not know what their treatment was going to cost. Staff and students will be able to print out a treatment estimate to discuss with patients before treatment starts.

This University service continues to aim to provide quality treatment at an attractive cost for patients.

Currently, administration staff read through the “descriptions” in each file to interpret the treatment the patient has had then work out the fees based on a schedule of fees.

Soon, students and their supervisors will tick rows of tick boxes that allocate a code and cost to each treatment provided, which will generate an invoice, enabling patients to pay on the day of treatment, Dr Cathro says.


IT Project Manager Peter Kindiak says almost 600 students and staff have been trained to use the up-graded electronic system and just before it goes live in the new building, they will get more training.

Once in the new building, super-users will help deal with any problems, the Human Resources Division training team will run refresher courses and people can keep consulting a blog the project set up to host tutorial videos, product guides, and a list of answers to frequently asked questions.

Changing processes

The new systems are already being used by Orthodontics in the Faculty of Dentistry and at the Te Kaika health, social and education clinic in Caversham in Dunedin – which has provided opportunities to smooth out any complications with both the up-graded electronic systems and new processes.

Mr Kindiak arranged for all existing processes to be documented by a business analyst from the moment a potential patient contacted the Faculty of Dentistry until the patient left its care, including investigations into patients' possible eligibility for funding.

That has formed the basis for new processes and about 80 per cent of those are being used already.

Staff and students were asked to start implementing every process they could while still using paper files, so the processes become habits before people move into the new building in April/May.

The new processes created documented structures rather than relying on individual people with knowledge of specific tasks, Mr Kindiak says.

Waiting image
A public waiting area in front of the clinics (left) where people will be treated.

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